Concert Review: Both Sides Now Presents the Joni Mitchell Songbook

Review by Ben Macnair with photos by Dave Jones

Right from her beginnings as a folk singer on the Laurel Canyon scene in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the musical spirit of Joni Mitchell has always been a restless one. From the introspection of Blue, the more robust Court and Spark, to her jazz albums such as Herija, and Mingus, her more than twenty album career has seen her expand her folk beginnings into a far wider range of genres than many of her contemporaries.

With so many songs to choose the band Both Sides Now had a lot of material to choose from. The ensemble, led by the singer and guitarist Sarah Miller, and the keyboard player Aidan Goldstraw were accompanied by lead guitarist Nick Mellor, Ollie Collins on Bass and Carl Hemmingsley on Drums, in a set that took in light funk, bombastic rock and folk jazz leanings. The group’s own arrangements would not have been to everyone’s tastes, but they added something new to the songs, with famous pieces such as Woodstock being performed as a sixties styled psychedelic rock, or Black Crow being a light funk workout for two guitars and bass.

With a sound that flitted across so many genres, all of the musicians had to be on top of their game, with the busy bass parts on both fretless and fretted instruments, and drums being particularly notable. Many of the songs featured extended soloing, whilst the voice of Sarah Miller did justice to the lyrical poetry that first made Joni Mitchell’s name.

Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter was delivered in slow reverie, and A Case of You was a jazz swing. Chelsea Morning had a rock edge, whilst two ballads Down To You, and From Both Sides now were delivered as duets for piano and vocals.

The expected encore of Big Yellow Taxi became a singalong hit for the audience, its lyrics still sadly resonant today.

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